I’ll write this sometime after I return from serving lunch at the Damiano Soup Kitchen.
OK. I’m back.
Shortly after finishing my post on the late Bob Mars I realized it likely would leave the wrong impression with readers. It might make them think I didn’t much care for Bob. The word I meant to write was “wary.” I was wary of Bob. He was influential and I took that into consideration.
On Wednesday morning I attended our church’s mens group where our guest was Sherry Rodriguez who works for St. Louis County advising Veterans about their state and federal benefits. Sherry asked the group to go around and describe their past military connections. Of 15 of us I was one of only two who had not been in the military. For a rare moment I felt out of touch. We had a couple of vets from the second world war several from Korea and more from Vietnam. I simply mentioned my father and grandfather’s service and explained that during the Vietnam war I had a 2-S deferment – to attend college.
At 65 I’m a few years younger than most of our group and that made a difference. By the time I graduated from high school the war was something to avoid as it had grown unpopular. The 2-S gave a lot of us cover and by the time I graduated I was no longer needed for call up. The fellows in our men’s group were either from the so called “greatest generation” or its younger siblings. Not me.
Bob Mars was of this Era. In one of our conversations he told me how he’d been assigned to fight in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands which the Japanese had occupied. That alone would have guaranteed a certain level of serious mindedness. And yet Bob must have harbored a sense of humor which he didn’t often display to a pup like me. But I do remember one tale he told me that hints of it.
In his college days, possibly at Carleton, he and some buddies had led a cow up the staircase of their dormitory to the roof. The Bob Mars I knew would have been a tough man to face had I done such a thing. It gave me some comfort to know that Bob hadn’t completely lost touch with his youthful escapades. In my presence he was mostly spit and polish. In fact, Tim Grover once told me with a grin how Bob had told him something to the effect that Bob judged men by whether they had polished their shoes or not. Its no wonder Bob didn’t take me all that seriously.
Now a correction:
I met Bob 40 years ago but I began serving on the school board with him 20 years ago. A lot has happened since then and I realized this morning I’d made a mistake with my chronology. He didn’t step down for health reason in 1999. He did that in 1997 two years after I was elected. I helped talk him into running a write-in campaign when it became apparent that the Teacher’s Union President planned to take over the Board and he damned near did it. In my previous post I wrote that this took place in 2001.
And an addendum:
In 1993, one of the three years I unsuccessfully ran for the school board, I asked Bob to support what was then Duluth’s first attempt to pass a “operating levy referendum.” There is a long story to this which I’ve probably written in the past but maybe not. (I thought I’d written the cow story in the blog but couldn’t find it). Bob was reluctant at first because it wasn’t fashionable to support tax increases in the Ninety’s. Still, Bob did it when he realized our local referendum money would be matched two-state dollars for every one-dollar our voters voted to approve. That was just too tempting for a good businessman to pass on. We campaigned to use all this money to pay off what was then a five million debt and build a $10 million reserve fund. That’s what I wrote in that controversial letter in 2001 when Bob I succeeded in getting Bob elected to the Board again. It was true.